The New York Times — and every other media outlet, including Fox News — reports that Pete Seeger died tonight at the age of 94:
Pete Seeger, the singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died Monday. He was 94 and lived in Beacon, N.Y.
His death was confirmed by his grandson, Kitama Cahill Jackson, who said he died of natural causes at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
… In 1955 he was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he testified, “I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature.” He also stated: “I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.”
Mr. Seeger offered to sing the songs mentioned by the congressmen who questioned him. The committee declined.
… Through the years, Mr. Seeger remained determinedly optimistic. “The key to the future of the world,” he said in 1994, “is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”
I have vivid memories of my mother singing “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” to me to calm me down when I was little and having some kind of crying jag. (Which backfired, because I was apparently just old enough to comprehend that the song is about people dying; I have an equally vivid memory of starting to cry even harder.) I remember arguing with my sister about the harmonies in “Turn! Turn! Turn!” I belted “If I Had A Hammer” and “Little Boxes Made of Ticky Tacky” and I’m sure I sang “This Land Is Your Land” in grade school — and then again in college when I learned the verses about the signs that read Private Property.
I can’t possibly say how much influence Pete Seeger had on me and my taste in music, because not only did I grow up with many of his songs, he also influenced so many of the artists I have grown up with or grown to love: Bob Dylan, the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, Bruce Springsteen, Ani DiFranco. And so on and so forth — through his music and through the musicians inspired by him, his influence goes on down to folk singers and rockers and musicians of all kinds that I love now.
Goodnight, Pete. We’ll hear you in our dreams.